Cruel and unusual punishment

Today is the day that Answers in Genesis begins their Renew-A-Thon. For a mere $299 (with additional expenses for hotel and meals, but hey, that includes free parking and admission to the Creation “Museum” and Ark Park!), or $459 for a family of 5, you can sit through two long miserable weeks of bullshit from a parade of liars. I took a look at their schedule, and I was tempted — not $300 tempted, but more like $1.99 for a couple of lectures tempted — because dear gog, this looks awful, like here’s a giant blob of jello and me with a chainsaw awful.

Here’s a piece of that schedule. It goes on for ten days beyond what I’ve cut and pasted here.

AiGSchedule

I’m just goggling at it all. Start with the first lecture: The eyes don’t have it, by Tommy Mitchell. The molecular and morphological history of the animal eye is one of those beautiful examples of the evidence coming together to support evolution; this bozo is going to tear at it with weaponized ignorance, and the audience is going to eat it up. The second talk is Big Bang: exploding the myth, by the ridiculous Terry Mortenson. Mortenson spoke here in Morris 5 years ago, and it was two nights of non-stop dishonesty and garbage. Ken Ham? Irrelevant. The Genetics of Adam and Eve by Georgia Purdom will be a total misrepresentation of what science says.

One of the biggest debates in Christianity today concerns the first two people: were Adam and Eve real or are they the product of myths? Those who claim we have evolved over millions of years believe that Adam and Eve, as the Bible teaches about them, have no place in human history. They argue that the science of genetics proves we cannot be descended from only two people. Many Christians have accepted this position and propose that their historical existence is irrelevant to Christianity and the gospel. In this session, I will show how current findings from scientists who study DNA actually support the biblical position that Adam and Eve were real people. More importantly, I will demonstrate how absolutely necessary Adam and Eve are to understanding original sin and the redemptive work of Christ on the cross. Come find out why there can be no Jesus without a real Adam and Eve.

That’s simply not true. The molecular evidence says we did not descend from just two people, that our species evolved over 100,000 years ago, and that the hypothesis that we evolved from only Adam and Eve a mere 6,000 years ago is completely untenable. But of course, her real argument is that the Bible requires this counterfactual BS.

My blood pressure is rising just reading the schedule. It’s probably for the best that I’m not going to be there, because I wouldn’t make it past the first day.

I wonder how many attendees they’ll have?

I get email

It’s a question from Israel, so it was right-aligned. Too bad it wasn’t written from right to left or it would have been more interesting.

sorry for my bad english.

someone gave me a strong evidence for a design

a)we know that all robots need a designer

b)from a material prespective, the human is an organic self replicator robot

a+b=the human need a designer

what you think?

yours…

Ooooh, logic is fun!

a) We know that all robots use batteries or plug into an electrical outlet.

b)from a material prespective, the human is an organic self replicator robot

a+b=the human need a battery or electrical outlet.

So all creationists should go stick a fork in one.

Alternatively, I suppose I could just tell him to read his own question and think about what he is saying.

Designed robots are designed.

Organic self replicator robots organically self replicate.

(Also on FtB)

Nice argument for the age of the earth

Geoffrey Pearce sent me this argument he uses with creationists, and I thought others might find it useful, too.

I am regularly approached by young Earth creationists (yes, even in the bedlam of sin that is Montreal…) both on the street and at home. If I have the time I try to engage them on the age of Earth, since Earth is something whose existence them and I agree upon. They will tell me that Earth is somewhere between 6,000 – 10,000 years old, and, when prompted, that the rest of the universe is the same age as well. I have taken the approach of responding to this assertion by pulling out a print of the far side of the Moon (attached, from apod.nasa.gov).

I cannot tell you how handy this is! Once they’ve had a good look I usually point out that almost all of the craters were formed by asteroids smashing into the planet, and that the Moon has over 250 craters with a diameter of 100 km or more. After explaining that Earth is just as likely to be struck by large asteroids as the Moon (is more likely to be struck, in-fact, due to its greater gravitational well), I then ask them to consider what their time-scale entails: that Earth should be struck every couple of decades by an asteroid capable of completely ejecting an area about the size of New Hampshire (not to pick on New Hampshire). Since such an event has never been observed and there are no well-preserved impact structures anywhere close to this size range, I then suggest to them that the only sensible conclusion is that Earth is much older than they had thought.

This may seem a convoluted way of making a point about Earth’s age, in particular since more precise and direct dating methods than crater counting are used for Earth, but I think that it may have an important advantage. In the past I have tried explaining to creationists how our understanding of Earth’s age is obtained, but they seem to take the “what I can’t see isn’t real” attitude when they hear words such as “radioactivity”, and “isotope”. Conversely, many of them seemed to be somewhat shaken after seeing this image and hearing my explanation, with one even admitting that the Moon looks “very old”. Furthermore, such images are a good starting point for discussing the degree to which chaos and uncertainty are inherent to the universe. Yay!

(Also on FtB)

New Hampshire, Texas of the North

I hope some of the New Hampshire readers are paying attention: you have two creationist bills working through the legislature, and some real dingbats backing them.

Bergevin told the Monitor, “I want the full portrait of evolution and the people who came up with the ideas to be presented. It’s a worldview and it’s godless.” He reportedly blamed the acceptance of evolution for the atrocities of Nazi Germany and the 1999 Columbine shooting.

I know NH has extremely diverse representation…tell me these clowns are going to get laughed down as soon as their bills come up for a vote.

(Also on FtB)

Ark Park? What Ark Park?

Ken Ham has been planning to build this colossal boondoogle in Kentucky, a life-sized replica of Noah’s Ark. Except they’ve hit one little snag.

Their groundbreaking was pushed back from spring, to summer, to fall, and the most recent media report was to next spring. Meanwhile, their fundraising goal of $24.5 million appears to have ground to a halt at just over $4 million, where it has been for quite a while. They had reached the $3 million mark all the way back in May.

I don’t know what the problem is. $4 million is more than enough to hire one old man with a wooden mallet and a bronze axe for a year.

$4 million is also a lot of moolah for Answers in Genesis to walk away with if their Ark project flops.

(Also on FtB)

Creationist abuse of cuttlefish chitin

A few weeks ago, PLoS One published a paper on the observation of preserved chitin in 34 million year old cuttlebones. Now the Institute for Creation Research has twisted the science to support their belief that the earth is less than ten thousand years old. It was all so predictable. It’s a game they play, the same game they played with the soft tissue preserved in T. rex bones. Here’s how it works.

Compare the two approaches, science vs. creationism. The creationists basically insert one falsehood, generate a ludicrous conflict, and choose the dumbest of the two alternatives.

The Scientific Approach

find traces of organic material in ancient fossils

Cool! We have evidence of ancient biochemistry!

Science!

The Creationist Approach

declare it impossible for organic material to be ancient

steal other people’s discovery of organic material in ancient fossils

Cool! Declare that organic material must not be ancient, because of step 1, which we invented

Throw out geology, chemistry, and physics because they say the material is old

Profit! Souls for my Lord Arioch!

You see, the scientists are aware of the fact that organic materials degrade over time, but recognize that we don’t always know the rate of decay under all possible conditions. When we find stuff that hasn’t rotted away or been fully replaced by minerals, we’re happy because we’ve got new information about ancient organisms, and we may also be able to figure out what mechanisms promoted the preservation of the material.

The creationists start with dogma — in this case, a false statement. They declare

Chitin is a biological material found in the cuttlebones, or internal shells, of cuttlefish. It has a maximum shelf life of thousands of years…

and

Because of observed bacterial and biochemical degradation rates, researchers shouldn’t expect to find any original chitin (or any other biomolecule) in a sample that is dozens of millions of years old–and it therefore should be utterly absent from samples deposited hundreds of millions of years ago. Thus, the chitin found in these fossils refutes their millions-of-years evolutionary interpretation, just as other fossil biomolecules already have done.

But wait. How do they know that? The paper they are citing says nothing of the kind; to the contrary, it argues that while rare, other examples of preserved chitin have been described.

Detection of chitin in fossils is not frequent. There are reports of fossil chitin in pogonophora, and in insect wings from amber. Chitin has also been reported from beetles preserved in an Oligocene lacustrine deposit of Enspel, Germany and chitin-protein signatures have been found in cuticles of Pennsylvanian scorpions and Silurian eurypterids.

So the paper is actually saying that the “maximum shelf life” of chitin is several tens of millions of years. And then they go on to describe…chitin found in Oligocene cuttlefish, several tens of millions of years old. The creationists are busily setting up an imaginary conflict in the evidence, a conflict that does not exist and is fully addressed in the paper.

The creationists do try to back up their claims, inappropriately. They cite a couple of papers on crustacean taphonomy where dead lobsters were sealed up in anoxic, water- and mud-filled jars; they decayed. Then they announce that there’s only one way for these cuttlebones to be preserved, and that was by complete mineralization, and the cuttlebones in the PLoS One paper were not mineralized.

…mineralization–where tissues are replaced by minerals–is required for tissue impressions to last millions of years. And the PLoS ONE researchers verified that their cuttlebone chitin was not mineralized.

Funny, that. You can read the paper yourself. I counted 14 uses of the words “mineralized” and “demineralized”. They state over and over that they had to specifically demineralize the specimens in hydrochloric acid to expose the imbedded chitin. And of course the chitin itself hadn’t been mineralized, or it wouldn’t be chitin anymore! Did the creationists lie, or did they just not understand the paper?

The scientists also do not claim that the chitin has not been degraded over time. They actually document some specific, general properties of decay in the specimens.

β-chitin is characterized by parallel chains of chitin molecules held together with inter-chain hydrogen bonding. The OH stretching absorbance, at about 3445 cm−1 in extant chitin, is diminished in the fossil and shifted to lower wavenumbers, showing that the specimen is losing OH by an as yet undetermined mechanism. The N-H asymmetric stretching vibration is shifted to slightly lower wavenumbers, showing that it is no longer hydrogen bonding exactly as in extant specimens. Changes in the region 2800-3600 cm−1 indicate that biomolecules have been degraded via disruption of interchain hydrogen bonds.

So, yes, the creationists seem to have rather misrepresented what the paper said. Here’s another blatant example of lying about the contents of the paper.

The question they did not answer, however, is why the original organic chitin had not completely fallen apart, which it would have if the fossils with it were 34 million years old…

Actually, they did. A substantial chunk of the discussion was specifically about that question, a consideration of the factors that contributed to the preservation. It was a combination of an anoxic environment, the presence of molecules that interfered with the enzymes that break down chitin, and the structure of cuttlebone, which interleaves layers containing chitin with layers containing pre-mineralized aragonite.

In vivo inorganic-organic structure of the cuttlebone, in combination with physical and geochemical conditions within the depositional environment and favorable taphonomic factors likely contributed to preservation of organics in M. mississippiensis. Available clays within the Yazoo Clay in conjunction with suboxic depositional environment may have facilitated preservation of original organics by forming a physical and geochemical barrier to degradation. One key to the preservation of organic tissues, in particular chitin and chitosan, is cessation of bacterial degradation within environments of deposition. Bacterial breakdown of polymeric molecules is accomplished through activities of both free extracellular enzymes (those in the water column) and ektoenzymes (those on the surface of the microbial cell) such as chitinases. Chitinases function either by cleaving glycosidic bonds that bind repeating N-acetyl-D-glucosamine units within chitin molecules or by cleaving terminal N-acetyl-D-glucosamine groups. These enzymes adsorb to the surface of clay particles, which inactivates them. Strong ions in solution like iron may act in the same manner. Once bound to functional groups within these polymeric molecules, Fe2+ ions prevent specific bond configuration on the active-site cleft of specific bacterial chitinases and prevents hydrolysis, thus contributing to preservation.

Organic layers within cuttlebones are protected by mineralized layers, similar to collagen in bones, and this mineral-organic interaction may also have played a role in their preservation. Specimens of M. mississipiensis show preserved original aragonite as well as apparent original organics. These organics appear to be endogenous and not a function of exogenous fungal or microbial activity. Fungi contain the γ form of chitin not the β allomorph found in our samples. Also, SEM analyses shows there is no evidence of tunneling, microbes, or wide-spread recrystallization of the aragonite. Therefore the chitin-like molecules detected in fossil sample are most likely endogenous. Similar to collagen in bone, perhaps, organics could not be attacked by enzymes or other molecules until some inorganic matrix had been removed.

Like I always say, never ever trust a creationists’ interpretation of a science paper: they don’t understand it, and they are always filtering it through a distorting lens of biblical nonsense. They make such egregious errors of understanding that you’re always left wondering whether they are actually that stupid, or that sleazily dishonest. Or both.

But imagine if the creationists hadn’t screwed up royally in reading the paper, if they had actually found an instance of scientists being genuinely baffled by a discovery that should not be. What if there was actually good reason to believe that chitin could not last more than ten thousand years?

Then the only sensible interpretation of this observation of 34 million year old chitin would be that the prior estimation of the shelf-life of chitin was wrong, and that it could actually last tens of millions of years. What the creationists want to do is claim that that minor hypothetical is actually correct, and that instead the entirety of nuclear physics, geology, radiochemistry, and modern cosmology is wrong. On the one hand, uncertain details about the decay of one organic molecule; in the other, entire vast fields of science, already verified, and with complex modern technologies built on their operation…and which hand would the creationists reject? The trivial one, of course.

I’m leaning towards “stupid” as the explanation for their bad arguments.


Oh, after I started this dissection, I discovered someone had already beaten me to it: here’s another analysis of the creationist misinterpretations.

(Also on FtB)

The Pluto objection

I’m so sorry, Kentucky. How do you end up with such ignorant school superintendents?

Ricky Line is concerned because his school district is teaching the facts of evolution.

“I have a very difficult time believing that we have come to a point … that we are teaching evolution … as a factual occurrence, while totally omitting the creation story by a God who is bigger than all of us,” he wrote. “My feeling is if the Commonwealth’s site-based councils, school board members, superintendents and parents were questioned … one would find this teaching contradictory to the majority’s belief systems.”

“My argument is, do we want our children to be taught these things as facts? Personally, I don’t,” Line said. “I don’t think life on earth began as a one-celled organism. I don’t think that all of us came from a common ancestor … I don’t think the Big Bang theory describes the explanation of the origin of the universe.”

So a school superintendent rejects all of modern science. The only novel thing here is his excuse:

The vast majority of scientists contend that evolution is an accepted cornerstone of modern science, and that there is no real scientific debate over the concept.

Line counters that “it’s interesting that the great majority of scientists felt Pluto was a planet until a short time ago, and now they have totally changed that. There are scientists who don’t believe that evolution happened.”

That argument might work a little better if Pluto had winked out of existence when it was retitled…but it still whirls about the sun. Just as life on earth keeps bubbling up, and descent with modification keeps on happening.

And just like bible-thumping American yokels keep meddling in our children’s educations.

(Also on FtB)

Mommy, why is that man covered with penises?

Have fun and go visit the Missing Universe Museum online. You will feel as if you are finally getting close to the bottom of human stupidity.

Every page promotes this argument:

If you don’t believe God created all living things, male and female, in 6 days….
How many millions of years was it between the first male and the first female?

It’s idiotic when Ray Comfort says it, and it’s just as inane when whoever put this website together says it.

I had to stop and close the web page at the sight of this, their argument against vestigial organs. You see, if evolution were actually true, and vestigial organs actually existed, then we’d all look like this:

i-57f8d74f2816f11c37ffd17d64284d2d-evovestigial.jpeg

I’m baffled. Why would anyone imagine that a prediction of evolution is that humans should be covered with penises?


I had to add one more thing: their evolution test.

Students, give this test to your teachers. When they fail it, ask them why they are teaching this nonsense!

Teachers, give this test to your students if you really want them to know the truth about evolution!

1. Which evolved first, male or female?
2. How many millions of years elapsed between the first male and first female?
3. List at least 9 of the false assumptions made with radioactive dating methods.
4. Why hasn’t any extinct creature re-evolved after millions of years?
5. Which came first:
…the eye,
…the eyelid,
…the eyebrow,
…the eye sockets,
…the eye muscles,
…the eye lashes,
…the tear ducts,
…the brain’s interpretation of light?
6. How many millions of years between each in question 5?
7. If we all evolved from a common ancestor, why can’t all the different species mate with one another and produce fertile offspring?
8. List any of the millions of creatures in just five stages of its evolution showing the progression of a new organ of any kind. When you have done this, you can collect the millions of dollars in rewards offered for proof of evolution!
9. Why is it that the very things that would prove Evolution (transitional forms) are still missing?
10. Explain why something as complex as human life could happen by chance, but something as simple as a coin must have a creator. (Show your math solution.)
11. Why aren’t any fossils or coal or oil being formed today?
12. List 50 vestigial or useless organs or appendages in the human body.
13. Why hasn’t anyone collected the millions of dollars in rewards for proof of evolution?
14. If life began hundreds of millions of years ago, why is the earth still under populated?
15. Why hasn’t evolution duplicated all species on all continents?

Finals week is next week. Should I give that to my intro students?

(Also on FtB)

I am honestly happy that Phillip Johnson is still alive

The last time I saw an appearance of the founder of the Intelligent Design movement, Johnson was looking very frail, recovering from a stroke. It’s also been quite some time since I’ve seen him make an appearance. I hope that his mental faculties are also strong, and that he’s alert and aware. The IDists are celebrating the 20th anniversary of the publication of his book, Darwin on Trial, so I’d love to know that he’s having a grand time.

Why, you might wonder…after all, that book they’re celebrating is dishonest tripe, and the ID movement has been pure poison to science. I make no bones about the fact that I consider Johnson to be an intellectual criminal.

The reason is simple: Jason Rosenhouse is right. Intelligent Design is dead. I want Johnson to suffer the pain and frustration of knowing that he has wasted his life, and that he’ll be remembered as a failure.

His book was a cobbled together hodge-podge of specious reasoning, using legal logic to raise unwarranted doubts over concepts he couldn’t understand. He was no scientist; neither are his followers. He was a pettifogging lawyer coming off a divorce and a midlife crisis who tried to find redemption by lying for Jesus. It didn’t work.

Creationism staggered out of the Edwards v. Aguillard case in 1987 in a shambles — creationism was repudiated, it was tarred entirely as a religious concept, and prohibited from schools as a violation of the Establishment Cause. They had to find a strategy to hide its religious underpinnings, and there was good ol’ Lawyer Johnson, happy to provide it. That was his contribution, the smokescreen of ID.

It thrived for a while; it had its successes as yokels everywhere embraced it as a way to pretend their Old Time Religion was actually cutting edge science. It received a mortal blow in the Kitzmiller trial, which saw through the nonsense. It’s tainted fruit now. THey’re struggling to find a new frame in which to cloak their agenda, but the Discovery Institute is always going to be associated with Intelligent Design.

All they have succeeded in doing is flooding the discourse with fallacious turds like “irreducible complexity”, which still gets parroted by ignorant politicians, like Michele Bachmann.

Irreducible complexity is poorly formulated and not an obstacle to evolution; at this point, the explanations are so common that bringing up IC is simply an admission of ignorance, of someone with a Bachmann-like understanding of biology.

And for a scientific movement, look at the quality of the proponents who have flocked to it: basically no one. The primary spokesperson of the Discovery Institute is Casey Freakin’ Luskin, a freshly minted lawyer with an undergraduate degree in earth science, and who is demonstrably incompetent at basic biology — not that that prevents him from flooding the DI website with patent nonsense.

They’ve got propagandists like David Klinghoffer, who’s reduced to sticking his fingers in his ears and chanting la-la-la to the existence of criticisms.

It’s latest pseudo-scholarly efforts are bloated, preening, vacuous babble like Signature in the Cell, books that even fans of the idea find tedious and uninspiring.

Their websites are little walled garden, either no comments allowed or comments carefully screened, because they cannot tolerate open discusssion and criticism.

They’ve got nothing new. There is no new science emerging from the cesspit of ID.

I think we’re done.

I really just hope that Phillip Johnson is vaguely aware of, and vaguely perturbed by, the failure of his ideas. And I hope he lives many more years, to witness the continuing decay of his pathetic movement.

(Also on FtB)

Hamza Tzortzis on the Intellectual Dishonesty of Professor Myers SHOCKING!

That’s what he titles his latest youtube video, anyway. I laughed, just like I laughed when Eric Hovind called to complain about the misinformation on my website. He also claims I “accept defeat”

Myers accepts defeat see below:

Myers changes his stance from Ireland, In Ireland Myers says the ‘Quran is Wrong’. After reviewing the iERA Research Paper he now believes its the Quran has ‘ very little opportunity for disproof, and they can be made to fit just about any reasonable observation.’

I am surprised to learn that I accepted defeat. Doesn’t he know I’m indomitable? Anyway, here’s the video where Tzortzis crushes me.

I will give him credit — he does link to my article debunking Islamic embryology, which is more than most creationists would do. But still, he’s got it all wrong.

During our encounter in Ireland, I pointed out that their specific claim of a discrete sequence of development in the embryo, from bones to muscles being added to bones, was false. In the article I wrote on Tzortzis’s strained exegesis of two verses from the Quran, I explained that you can’t make concrete claims about embryology from such a vague, cursory, and intentionally poetic source, such as those two verses. These are not incompatible arguments. The second point is not a softening of the views made in the first point.

If anything, Tzortzis has backed down. In Ireland, he and his friends were trying desperately to argue that Mohammed knew things that no man in his position could possibly have known without a divine source of information; my argument was that no, what’s in the Quran is very much in line with the knowledge of his day, derived from Aristotle and Galen. No miracles were required to write those two verses.

Now Tzortzis’s claim is greatly reduced; it is that the Quran does not “negate reality”, or does not make claims that contradict known science. That’s fine; as I said, it’s the most minuscule of verses saying the wobbliest things, and it’s derived from observations of embryos made by Greek and Roman predecessors, so it’s not surprising that it can be retrofitted to fit modern science by playing enough word games.

Tzortzis relies on what he calls “lexical analysis”, but it’s little more than compiling the equivalent of thesaurus entries for words in the verses, and then picking and choosing the ones that fit the point he’s trying to make. That’s not analysis, it’s cherry-picking.

Amusingly, he does the same thing to modern developmental biology. He’s gone rifling through legitimate embryology texts, trying to prove that I don’t know what I’m talking about, and he found one sentence in a textbook — “after the cartilaginous models of the bone have been established, the myogenic cells, which have now become myoblasts, aggregate to form the muscle masses” — that he thinks shows I was wrong and that his interpretation of the Quran phrase — “bones were clothed with flesh” — is correct.

Wrong. See, this is the problem with his “lexical analysis” approach — it means he tries to conform what he reads to what he already thinks he knows. I know what a developing limb looks like; mesodermal masses condense gradually into organized clusters of cells that differentiate in parallel. Centers of what will become bones aggregate and form cartilage (not bone, notice) as centers of what will become muscle (the myogenic cells in that description) aggregate and begin differentiation into myoblasts and myotubes and eventually muscle fibers.

Here’s what we actually see in the developing limb: branching patterns of cell fate decisions by tissue precursors, and parallel differentiation of the cellular components of those tissues.

i-74e8bd4c9cd0ca6809cc81aab3fd904a-musclebone.jpeg

The simplistic and discrete idea of “bones, then flesh” doesn’t even recognize that “bones” and “flesh” aren’t simple binaries, and the sequence isn’t a simple temporal switch. What you had instead was the early segregation of cells into differing mucopolysaccharide matrices, within which cells began complex sequences of shifting patterns of gene expression and differentiation into mesodermally-derived tissues.

Or more poetically, bones and flesh congealed together out of balls of snot. There are sequences within that pattern, but chondrocytes aren’t bones and myoblasts are not muscles. Tzortzis is trying too hard to fit the Quran to science, because he can’t appreciate that it’s just a book written by men trying to make sense of the world, and also unfortunately trying to add extra weight to their opinions by claiming the authority of a god behind them. A sad state of affairs that I’m afraid their modern descendants continue to perpetrate.

(Also on FtB)